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MSW Social Work Masters, Hospice

January 23, 2013

I very much appreciate the comprehensive character of being a social worker, especially being an advocate for the client and helping him or her to navigate their way successfully through the system, making the most of those resources that are available for support.  I also appreciate how social workers are a part of professional teams of healthcare professionals, providing all manner of treatment regimens, from one-on-one care, to family and group counseling.  I love how the work is extremely varied, ranging from healthcare advocacy and referrals to client education.

As with any work that involves working with the public, the social worker must be highly culturally competent, being able to reach out to and communicate effectively with people of varying backgrounds, cultures, and creeds.  Cultural competency needs to be heartfelt, though, as much a part of the social worker as compassion, something that cannot be taught in the lecture hall.  Moreover, the catchment area of at-risk populations encompasses people of all socioeconomic status as well as cultural differences, thus, the social worker must be in tune with the unique needs of the poor, the sick and the needy, coupled with a desire to help all, and at all costs.

For the future, I anticipate inspiring others to become more engaged in their lives, motivate them, and teach them that even though life’s path is inherently riddled with pitfalls, there is always the ability to begin anew.  More specifically, post graduation, I envision working within Hospice, and upon building my exposure, serving as a lead caregiver and hosting grief support groups.  Moreover, I am aiming to use my work experience as a foundation from which to assist in gerontology research.

Having spent close to three years as a home health aide, I was fortunate to have had contact with patients of all ages, but primarily the elderly.  The diversity of clientele has helped build my own cultural competency, as my patients represented many ethnicities, walks of life and socioeconomic status.  Furthermore, I helped patients with all manner of conditions and ailments, cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to name but a few.  I took from this time in my professional career a sense of deep and profound privilege to be with a patient in their most vulnerable stages of life.

I will never forget one of my patients, a 60-year old man, dying of brain cancer, a man and family I served for but eight short hours.  Upon arriving at the gentleman’s home, I found him, and his wife, but their three sons were all living out of state.  In minutes, I assessed that the man had less than 24 hours to live.  Taking the man’s wife to one side, I explained that she needed to inform her sons right away, and events unfolded around me: the sons booking their flights while the woman shared beautiful memories of her time with her husband.  As time went on, she became more frantic, asking, “What should I do?”  Having worked alongside hospice nurses, I knew this moment would come, probably the most painful of questions we ever face.  I explained that while her husband was in a transitional period, he could still hear her, that he needed to hear that she and the boys would be fine, that they were on their way, and that they all loved him very much.  Knowing that people sometimes hang onto life out of worry, I explained that her assurances would let her husband pass in peace.  Her relief was apparent, and her involvement in the process was, she felt, the least she could do.  That brief amount of time has stayed with me ever since, marking the most gratifying experience of my life.  I had empowered someone to assist in their loved one’s last moments.  What greater display of our humanity could I possibly offer for her or for any person I help through my future work?

While home healthcare work became too physically taxing for me, I never lost my desire to help others and their families in their times of need.  Indeed, while my time as a home healthcare worker “ended”, I have continued working for various behavioral health agencies as an administrative assistant.  To my mind, though, my work to date has not been as personally or professionally satisfying as it could, going only slightly beyond a means to an end.  While I have steadily progressed into more senior positions, increasing my responsibilities and the numbers of people I supervise, I know I am capable of contributing so much more in society and I will be able to do that with an MSW.

In preparation and anticipation of my MSW program, I have taken part in seminars and in-services normally reserved for social workers, despite the fact that I earn no continuing education units through these efforts. 

My introduction to social work was one of a deeply personal nature.  When my first long-term relationship ended in suicide, I received counseling from a social worker.  It was not until my own trials did I truly appreciate how I still longed to work in a capacity where I touched people’s lives, making positive, sustainable impact.  Now I have the chance to turn my negative experiences into positive energy, as a force for change in the community, bringing hope to those going through similar challenges, never letting my nightmare to have been in vain.

My social worker offered me great insights into what I was going through, carefully examining the steps, the stresses, both inside my mind and heart, and those in my life.  I was impressed with many things about my social worker, how the conversation was not just about my mind or my family, but how things were going to be financially, how I would feel when I returned home, and how I would handle my future.  After my ordeal, I heard a quotation by Deepak Chopra that succinctly describes the compassion I was shown: “In the giving of oneself there is a direct experience of pain, yet in the giving there is love.  Thus compassion has the power to dissolve pain by not avoiding it.”

Having been there before, and equipping myself with an MSW, I would be the ideal sounding board, a soft place to fall, for the people I counsel.  When I see a client in a hole they cannot get out of, I will get in the hole with them.  I will be able to tell them not to worry, I have been here before, and I know the way out.  More specifically, I have taken from my own experiences and self-guided further education the stages of grief, the need to impress upon the survivors that the situation is not their fault, and to not “catastrophize”.  Indeed, seeking out further guidance, I learned to cope with my feelings and apply what I had learned to other relationships in my life, but more importantly, learned living skills to take care of myself.

 I bring with me to the student body my maturity and years of professional work that has given me excellent interpersonal skills, yet only in the professional sense.  While my other abilities, time management, and deadline-oriented working environment experiences and handling sensitive information, I need to develop a number of other skills.

 As a professional social worker, I need learn to share only what is necessary to help others, to develop different approaches to therapy and how to balance listening, guidance and disclosure.  While I am a truly empathetic individual, I need to train myself to release my clients’ problems when I complete my daily work, to not “bring their problems home with me”.   

 My talents are still raw, and I need training in order to make the most of my strong desire to equip people with basic coping skills and increase self-efficacy and esteem, natural ability is not enough.  Knowing that people need to understand that blame and guilt are useless self-destructive cycles, how to impress upon them self-acceptance and respect of their limitations is only half the battle; fostering a sense of inner peace is key.  Through XXU’s graduate Social Work program, my sole choice for academic development, I am confident that I can develop my own set of clinical skills, and acumen.

 Thank you for your time and consideration.

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